Travel Blog for Fredrik and Gunnhild


We had a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Danang, which was very convenient. We took a taxi from the airport to our homestay in Hoi An. We recognized a lot on the way, from our last visit in 2013, but there was a lot of resorts being built along the beach between Danang and Hoi An, so the area is constantly changing. Ngo homestay was very central and cozy, but in a quiet street a few blocks away from the chaos of the old town. Every morning we had a great local breakfast (ordered from a nearby restaurant), often some sort of noodle soup.

The city was getting ready for Vietnamese New Year (Tết), and there were lanterns and lights everywhere, and large dragon sculptures in the river. Large pots with yellow flowers were constantly being transported back and forth (mainly on the back of motorbikes), to get tiny red ribbons hand tied to each flowers. Hoi An had changed a lot since the last time we were here. You actually needed a ticket to get into the old town now, and there were a lot more tourists and big groups. Also a lot of the cozy local restaurants had been replaced by chain restaurants and coffee shops.

Everything was more expensive than normal because of the holidays. Most tailors were closing down for 10 days, so we stressed a bit to pick one, and got all our clothes made in just over 24 hours. Not sure that was a very good choice, because we didn’t really have time to look around, and find the best fabric for what we wanted, but it seemed to be the best option at the time.

We found a restaurant called Mango Mango close to the hotel that served craft beer from Pasteur brewery in Saigon. We also spent quite a bit of time at the dive bar, Cham Island Divers. No diving was done in another month or so, but it was still a great place to hang out. People played pool and board games, and the waitress came around with free shots several times during the evening. We talked to several different people about diving, travelling and tailors.

We also went to an Australian Bar (3 Dragons Sports Bar & Restaurant) a bit outside of the center, because we saw they had a local craft beer we hadn’t tasted. We talked a lot to a Swiss bartender and a Finish couple there. We ended up joining a pub quiz, but were not very good at it, especially since it had a lot of questions about Australian and Vietnamese celebrities etc. We had great burgers and played a few rounds of pool. We also stopped by the next day, since it was Australia day, but when we arrived at 7 pm, most people had gone home drunk already.

One day we rented bikes from the homestay and bicycled to the beach (approximately 6 km one way). When we arrived there lots of people wanted money for bike parking, and it all seemed pretty chaotic. We went along the beach a bit instead, away from the hustle and bustle. There was very much trash on the beach, and the locals didn’t seem to care much. We had a not so good glass of white wine in a very local restaurant (probably the bottle had been open for too long), and decided to head back. We stopped at a bridge to take photos on the way, and spotted a nice place called Biaaa! & Bbq a bit hidden along the river. We went back for a beer, and ended up staying for hours, eating some small dishes, talking to the owners, enjoying the sun and having a great time. We took a different route back to the hotel, stopping to see some communist buildings, statues and nice parks, and a lot of Tết-decorations everywhere.

Since we had been in Hoi An before, we had seen all the main sights. Instead we decided to walk around in some of the smaller streets with less tourists. We found a large market and a lot of small restaurants with so much amazing food. We also went back to “Morning Glory”, one of the best restaurants we visited the last time we were here.

Our last destination was Ho Chi Minh City, where we stayed at E Central, a slightly upscale place in the backpacker street. We didn’t recognize the street at all, but a few other places around town were still familiar. We found a great small restaurant called the Chicken Coop, that had their own craft beers. We had some great food and beer there, and also talked to a lot of people, since they had these long tables which made it very social. We went to see the flower street, some drum shows and light shows, street acrobats etc. We stopped by the Official new year celebration, but did not get a lot out of it. Later in the evening we visited Heart of Darkness brewery and tasted the beers they had on tap. They were ok, but we were not very impressed, and there were hardly any people there either. We also stopped by Pasteur brewing on the way back, but they were closing, so we had to come back the next day.

Our flight back to Norway were not until 2355, so we had another full day in HCMC. We had several breweries and craft beer bars on our list, but all of them except one was closed on this day (Vietnamese New year’s day). So we went to Pasteur Street Brewing, luckily the highest rated one, and tasted what they had to offer. Quite American with a lot of hops, but they also had some really good ones. Other than that we spent the day doing some last minute shopping and eating some of our favourite Vietnamese dishes.

It was a long travel home via Dubai, but we arrived home on time. Gunnhild’s 29 kg suitcase had a rough trip, and only had one wheel left when it arrived in Norway. Quite a hassle, but at least it was quick to register the damage, and Emirates will cover the repairs. We were worried it would be very cold when we got back, but it was only a few degrees below zero, and a little bit of snow on the ground. Not too bad.

Kuala Lumpur

We had to have a stopover somewhere on our way from the Philippines to Vietnam, and decided on Kuala Lumpur mainly based on the selection of craft beer. We had been drinking too much crappy beer for a while, and looked forward to a better selection.

When we arrived, the line to the passport control was extremely long, so we ended up having lunch at the airport before taking a taxi to the hotel. We stayed at Parkroyal serviced suites, which was much needed luxury after the liveaboard. We had a big apartment with one bedroom, and an extra bed in the walk-in-closet. Lots of space and privacy! We got some laundry done, repacked, dried a lot of wet clothes and dive gear, got some blogging and photo sorting done and took long, warm showers. Lovely! The hotel also had a rooftop pool, but it was quite nice to stay dry for a while, so we didn’t use it. Nice views from the terrace though.

The hotel was located in a bar/restaurant area with lots of tourists and expats. We could pick restaurants from all over the world just a short walk from the hotel. We had Irish breakfast and Thai dinner, but mainly picked places based on the beer selection. Just next to our hotel was “Taps beer bar”, which had 20 beers on tap, and even a Norwegian/American collaboration beer named Trolltunga. They also had a lot of bottled beer, and allowed take-out, so we brought a few beers to the hotel to relax and get some much needed sleep.

We also did some sightseeing in the area around Petronas towers. We visited Skybar at Traders hotel, which is known for having the best view of the towers, travelled around a bit on subway and monorail, visited a food market and went to see the fountain show outside Petronas towers in the evening. We didn’t really have enough time to get to know the city, but we saw the main sights, had a lot of great beer and food, and were ready for our next destination.

Liveaboard and Cebu

When we arrived in Cebu we were supposed to be picked up at the pier by the liveaboard (Seadoors). But when we arrived we could not find anyone picking us up. Because of fear for terrorism during a festival in Cebu, the government had turned off all cell phone services, so we had no way of contacting the liveaboard. We waited for two hours, before we decided to take a taxi to where Fredrik thought he had read the boat were leaving from. We were very happy when we saw the boat in the harbor. Phew!

We boarded the boat and were welcomed by a French divemaster that had been on the boat for 4 months. He was the only one of the crew that were decent in English. On the boat we were only 9 guests, 4 French (that did not speak much English), two Australians, one guy from the UK and the two of us. We had a short briefing and were told that we would not leave the dock until 8 or 9 PM. The trip to the first dive site did take longer than planned because we had had more head wind than expected, so we got in the water just before 8 AM. This spot should be one of the highlights on the trip, because it was famous for it’s rare thresher sharks. The two dives we had here were kind of useless, since we arrived after the day boats arriving from the nearby island Malapascua and all the sharks were scared off. Luckily we went back a few days later.
We had a cabin in the bow of the boat below deck. We had two problems there, a leaking air condition that resulted in a lot of wet belongings. Fortunately we noticed before anything was ruined. The other problem was that we were very close to the anchor, so we were often woken up (almost jumping out of the bed) at all hours. The rest of the boat was ok, but quite small, so we couldn’t really stay up late without bothering people who was trying to sleep. That was probably a good thing though, since they managed to run out of beer half way through the trip, even with a half-full boat and not very social people.

It was quite obvious that the divemaster was not used to run the boat on his own. We hardly got any information, often arrived late to dive sites, didn’t know when to get up in the morning and how much time we had to relax between dives. The rest of the crew was very shy and didn’t speak much English, so except from when we were getting in and out of the water, we didn’t see them much. We did see them dumping trash in the water though. Not good! Originally 20 dives was planned, but because of some bad weather, but mainly very bad planning, we ended up doing just 15-17. A lot of the dives were very deep, and on most of them we didn’t really see very much. Even the OW divers were going much deeper than they were certified for.

We had a few days a bit further north before we were supposed to go southeast to Southern Leyte and search for whale sharks. but because of bad seamanship and and an anchor stuck on 60 meters, we were not able to go. After a vote between the passengers, we ended up going to Cabilao island between Bohol and Cebu instead. The diving there was good, but this was not what we had planned for so we were disappointed, and the mood on the boat was not the best. The highlight of the trip was definitely the thresher sharks at Monad Shoal. On our third dive there, we stayed at 30 meters for most of the dive, laying still and hardly breathing, to not scare them off. A few of them got really close, and it was quite spectacular.

On Gato Island we went through a cave, and saw lots of sharks and moray eels. We also did a night dive there where we saw a cat shark, frog fish, flamboyant cuttlefish and a sea horse. At Bullshark reef (Maripipi) we saw 2 Pygmy seahorses, which was pretty cool. We looked for hammerheads around Cabilao island, but had no luck (which means another short, deep dive with not much too see). The rest of the dives there were pretty great though. We saw 2 frog fish opening their mouths, and had an awesome night dive where we saw 2 squids, 1 small octopus, 1 big octopus, lots of different crabs, shrimps, stone fish, lion fish, scorpion fish, shaded batfish, nudibranchs, moray eels and catfish.

When we got back to Cebu we were taken to a hotel close to the airport (Park Hill Hotel). We took a taxi to Cebu city to find some craft beer. We had done a lot of research, but couldn’t find most of the places on the list. We had lunch and a couple of boring beers, and finally went to Turning wheels brewery when they opened at 6 pm. That saved the day! Awesome people and great beer. We tasted all the different types they had, and enjoyed a few more while talking to great people from all over the world. When they closed we went back to the hotel to pack for the flight to Kuala Lumpur early the next morning.


We had a private car from Bongo Bongo to the ferry terminal, and had planned to have plenty of time there. That was a good idea, because we first needed to stand in one line to pay port tax, then in one to get our seats assigned and finally in one to check in our luggage. We had bought business class tickets, which meant that we got to sit on the upper deck in good seats with air condition, large windows and watch a movie. Two hours later (about 1 hour delayed) we arrived at the port in Tagbilaran. It took a while to get our bags, and we stopped by the ticket counter to buy tickets for the ferry back to Cebu in 3 days.

We found a cheap tricycle to transport us to our hotel at Alona Beach, the Alona Kew Resort, which appears to be a resort from the exterior but is quite basic and located on the main beach road, close to everything. The greatest thing was that we got a room in the garden, so there was no noise from the main road or the beach. This is why travel planning is essential. You may frequently take advantage of travel offers, lower airfare, and seat sales to discover accommodations that fit your needs and budget. The longer one waits, the fewer options there are, and those choices may be more expensive. A well-planned travel itinerary is essential for a successful and enjoyable trip. Whether you’re traveling alone, with family, or with friends, having an organized itinerary can save you time and money and reduce stress.

We had originally planned to spend 4 days in Bohol, but because of lost luggage, typhoon warnings and fully booked ferries, we only had 2 days here. Since the weather wasn’t great either, we decided to skip diving, relax and try to go through some photos and write a bit on our blog. The first evening we found a Belgian restaurant, with quite a few Belgian beers on the menu. We stopped by for at least one beer there every evening, and really enjoyed drinking something other than lagers all the time. Especially the slightly sour Rodenbach was perfect in the heat.

Fredrik got a sting of some kind while diving in Dauin, and since the rash didn’t get any better, we decided it was best to get it checked out before the liveaboard. The hotel got him an appointment at the hospital right away, and after a quick and efficient visit he got back with a lot of medicines. The doctor was great and gave him stuff that should heal the rash as soon as possible, and have as little impact as possible on the rest of the vacation (diving, sun, beers). He’s not at all used to taking pills though, so it’s a bit of a hassle. 😀

Fredrik was told to be careful with too much sun for a couple of days, and also noticed that the rash got a lot better of the dry air condition air. So he stayed home going through photos, while Gunnhild went on a short sightseeing tour by tricycle. The first stop was the Blood Compact Monument, celebrating the March 1565 blood compact between Spain and the Philippines. Baclayon church was closed for visitors as it was still being rebuilt after the 2013 earthquake, but it was still interesting to see the coral-stone church from 1727 from the outside. Lunch was had at a very local fast food restaurant in Loboc, instead of on the tourist packed floating restaurants on the Loboc river. The final and most important stop was the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. Tarsiers are the world’s smallest primates, needs space, silence and gets easily stressed, so they had guides to take you around to make sure the tarsiers were not disturbed. It was a short 20 minute walk on muddy paths. Since the tarsiers are territorial, the guides knew where to find them, and 7-8 of them were easy to see from the path. They were very cute clinging to the trees looking at you with their large, sleepy eyes.

In the evening we packed all we needed on the liveaboard in our backpacks and all the dive gear in one half of the suitcase, so it would be easy to take out. We had a couple of rum and coke in the room, got a good nights sleep, and took a car to the ferry terminal in the morning. This terminal was a lot more structured than the previous one, but it still took some time to get through all the lines. They had departure screens, loud speakers for announcements that was almost possible to hear and the ferry was less than 30 minutes delayed. Again we had business class tickets (only slightly more expensive than the other ones) and had a smooth 2 hour trip to Cebu.


It was a 1,5-2 hour car ride from Moalboal to the port in Liloan (South Cebu), and after buying the tickets we waited for about half an hour for the ferry. It took just 20 minutes to get to Negros Island (Sibulan), and from there we took a tricycle through Dumaguete to our hostel/home stay/dive center in Dauin. It was quite a fun ride, with a lot to see on the way. We arrived at Bongo Bongo just before sunset, and were welcomed by owners, dive guides and guests. Such a friendly place. We had a private room in one of the bamboo huts on the property, but again spent most of our time in the common areas.

One of the owners at Bongo Bongo is Danish, and quite a few of the guests and instructors/dive masters were Danish too. But this was also a popular place to stop by for expats from all over the world and quite a few locals. They had a shared kitchen for the guests, but we ordered from the nearby restaurant Cat’s instead, which delivered for free. Very good and quite cheap food. The hostel had a self-service bar with cheap beers, and the owner, Magnus, even managed to get us some craft beer from a Norwegian brewer in Dumaguete while we were there. We also shared some aquavit, but especially the Danes were not big fans. We spent most of the time between and after dives in the common area in the front. We played music, cards, games (tumbling towers was especially popular), learned Danish kids songs, shared info on places to stay/dive etc, cuddled the 5 house dogs and laughed a lot.

Dauin is famous for muck/macro diving. We had most of our dives with dive guide Marvin, who was excellent at spotting all kinds of marine life. We had a few dives just off the beach outside the hostel, but normally drove a few minutes along the coast in either direction. On Sunday we were supposed to go to Apo Island by boat, but the government issued a typhoon warning, and we were not allowed to go. We went by boat to other dive sites along the coast instead. Fredrik still needed to rent equipment, and this was a great place to do so. They had high quality gear, a lot of the same brands as our own gear.


A lot of ferries were also cancelled because of the typhoon warning, so the day before we were leaving we sent a guy to the ferry terminal to buy tickets. They had no availability, but we got tickets for the ferry one day later. Luckily our room was available, so we could stay a day longer at Bongo Bongo. That was a very good idea, because a bit after we originally should have left, Fredrik’s long lost suitcase finally arrived on a motor bike, 8 days after he arrived in Cebu, 10 days after he checked it in in Norway. Happy-happy! We even signed up for two more dives, just so he could dive with his own gear. After checking the labels on the suitcase, we found out that it had been on a little vacation of it’s own to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. 😮



 We finally found each other outside the airport in Cebu around 5 pm, both very tired, Fredrik with no suitcase and Gunnhild with a damaged one. We said goodbye to Fredrik’s new friend, Helle, and got into our pre-booked van. It turned out that it was the end of the holiday in the Philippines, so the traffic was terrible. The trip that should have taken 2,5 hours ended up taking 4. We had one short stop at a super market on the way, buying some basics (t-shirts, shorts, toothbrush, flip-flops etc) for Fredrik.
Our hostel in Moalboal, Chief Mau, was very nice and just a few months old. We were welcomed by the staff who had received updates on Fredrik’s delays, and were very happy that we both finally arrived. We got a private room which was so new it was still lacking a few things (night lamp, mirror, hooks, curtains), but the beds were comfortable and the staff was very accommodating with whatever we needed. We didn’t spend much time in the room anyway, since the hostel had a great social area by the bar. They served basic but good food, had hammocks and other places to relax. Most people there were divers, so we had a lot to talk about.

The hostel staff where amazing trying to track down Fredrik’s suitcase, and we left most of the communication to them. After a couple of days we got a message that it would arrive the next day, but it didn’t arrive to Cebu as expected, and we had to go shopping again. That was an interesting experience, since the local shopping center had different departments for everything, and we had to pay at different counters. Also it was completely impossible to understand the sizes, and all packs had to be opened to see if a shirt had long or short sleeves. After more than an hour we finally got out of there, with almost everything needed for the next few days (we gave up finding shaving cream and a couple of other things). After that we didn’t receive any useful updates about the suitcase at all. We did some laundry and extended our stay by one day, but had to give up in the end and plan our next stop.

 We had a total of 7 dives over 3 days with Cebu dive center, just down the road from our hostel. Fredrik had to rent gear since his was still stuck at an airport somewhere. He was a bit unlucky with the regulator on the first dive, but after that there were no problems. Most dives were a short boat ride away, in their traditional bancas (double outrigger boats), but the house reef just outside the dive center was also a great dive site.
 We saw lots of frog fish, turtles, small moray eels and pipefish, a few sea snakes, octopus and leaf fish, several different nudibranchs and sea slugs (the electric one was pretty cool), reef fire gobies, flounders, scorpion fish and barracuda. We also got to see what Moalboal is famous for, the sardine run. We just noticed that it got dark, and when we looked up we saw a million sardines moving around, creating different shapes and forms. Pretty cool!

 The dive center had a bar, so we normally had a beer or two there after our last dive. We spent a long evening talking to an Irish couple there, and also some late evenings in our hostel. Especially our last evening got a bit later than planned. Everyone had trouble getting money from the local ATM, but one of Fredrik’s cards worked fine. We met a quite desperate Swedish girl there, who didn’t have any money at all. We ended up lending her 10000 PHP, and spent the evening (and most of the night) drinking beer with her, a Swiss guy and two Canadian brothers. Good times!



Since Gunnhild was already long gone, I had to travel alone to the Philippines. When I came to the airport the airplane was already 3 hours late into Oslo, and it was a small chance that I would get on to the connecting flight. I only had 3 hours and 20 minutes between flights in Dubai. Everyone told us that it was a good chance since all airplanes to and from Dubai was delayed, so everyone kept up a good mood. I have never seen so few people at OSL. This was on new year’s eve, so a few hours after we were supposed to fly, there were less than 10 flights left on the departure screens. By chance I started talking to a nice girl from Gjøvik (Helle), that was travelling the same route to Cebu, Philippines.

When we took off we were about 4 hours late. Since we were supposed to land in Dubai just before New Year we had to celebrate it aboard the airplane. The captain announced it, and we had a countdown to the new year, with following drinks. We landed in Dubai when my flight to Cebu was taking off. When the captain turned off the seatbelt sign, and we where standing up, I realized that Helle was sitting in the seat in front of me. We agreed that since both of us were traveling alone, we should try to tackle the airport together. That was a good plan, since the first customer service desk where packed. Helle went to ask if there were more customer service desks, and there were! So we kept on through security, and got to the next customer service desk. Here there were slightly less people, but still a mess. We somehow got to the counter in about 2.5 hours, to be told that the guy behind there could not find a solution for us, and that we where in a ticket line, not a customer service line, and that we might have better luck there. We went out of the line, and looked at the customer service line. Nothing moved. We found an Emirates representative, and she could tell us that the booking system was down, and that we were better off coming back in 2 hours or so. Our next question to the representative, was where do we find beer 🙂 She answered fast that the closest one had to be Heineken lounge, and we went there with a short pit stop at an eatery on the way.

After a few beers, we went back to get some food vouchers. We got them and they told us that the booking system was up. After a short discussion about food or tickets first, we agreed to go for tickets. Then the long wait started, we were kind of happy, so we were laughing and smiling and giving out candy to the kids that were standing with their parents in line. After about 4 hours we arrived at the counter, and after another 30 minutes we where the lucky holders of 2 seats on the next flight to Cebu, arriving just 24 hours late. We found out later that others on the same plane with the same destination where on a waiting list, and had to wait at least 48 hours.

We also got hotel vouchers and were looking forward to a shower. We should just go down to the baggage carousels and we would be off to the hotel, we thought. We were not that lucky. Since it was January first, there were no hotel rooms available in Dubai, so they gave us lounge access. Helle and I agreed since we only had about 15 hours left for our flight we will not go to a hotel, as long as we got a shower and some toiletries. The guy behind the counter lit up, at least someone he was not responsible for anymore.

Since we where at the baggage carousels we had to wait for someone to take us through some restricted doors before we got to the security counters. From there we walked the entire terminal 3 at Dubai airport, after standing still for 4 hours. This was refreshing at first, but soon our legs hurt like they had never hurt before. We arrived at a non alcohol lounge with no hot food. We could at any time go to the reception and get a voucher for warm food and go outside and eat, so we had no complaints. After a hot shower and coffee, we decided to go for some hot food. On the way back we saw a shop selling whisky, and decided to buy a bottle.

Now the day with the most laughing I have ever done started. Helle and I could not stop laughing, after a few hours we had finished the whiskey (sharing with some others in the lounge). So we went for another bottle. The next 6 hours were gone in no time. I think I have a new best friend! At midnight we left the lounge area to get to our flight at 02:45. We needed some hot food, and it was a long walk back to the gate. We arrived at the gate about 10 minutes before it opened, and got to our seats in no time. Both of us fell asleep immediately, and we do not know when we departed (probably on time).

We arrived before scheduled arrival time, and went fast through immigration. Then it was the wait for our baggage. We waited for a long time and Helle’s backpack was at last on the carousel. She went out because she wanted to get a local SIM card, and I was waiting until the “last bag on belt” sign came up, and I did not have my suitcase. After some paperwork and ATM work, Helle and I left the airport only 24 hours late!

The Maldives

After 3 hours in Colombo airport, and a 1,5 hour flight I arrived in the Maldives in the late evening on Christmas day. I got some cash and a local SIM card, before meeting up with the Emperor crew who would take med to MV Leo. I was picked up together with one guy from Bangladesh and a big group of Chinese divers, which worried me a bit, but it turned out that we were just sharing a dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat) out to our liveaboard boats. The Chinese were going on a separate boat. When we arrived there, most of the other guests had gone to bed, and we had a boat briefing, set up our equipment at the diving dhoni, got our cabins (I got one all to myself) and finally got to sleep around 1 am.

In the next 6 days we had a total of 17 dives, normally 3 dives per day (an additional night dive one day, and only one dive on the last day). We were woken up around 6 am and jumped in the water less than an hour later. Breakfast was served after the first dive, lunch after the second and dinner after the third. Sometimes we moved to a new location between dives, sometimes we stayed in one place and went to the different dive sites in the area using the diving dhoni. The itinerary was called “Best of the Maldives”, and was concentrated around South Male and Ari atolls, but also included North Male and Vaavu atolls. I was teamed up with a Danish dive buddy, and also had an American couple in my group. We were a great group that looked after each other, pointed out things we saw, and when the guys were low on air, Anne and I teamed up and continued a bit longer, so most of our dives were around 60 minutes.

We saw lots of moray eels, turtles, various rays, barracudas, tunas, trivallies etc. We visited a wreck, saw mantis shrimps, stone fish, leaf fish, several different nudibranchs and sea slugs, scorpion fish, large schools of small fish, anemone fish everywhere, beautiful corals and a few octopuses. In some dives we had quite strong currents, and used reef hooks to stay put in the location we wanted. This was mainly to watch sharks or manta rays searching for food or being cleaned by other fish at the cleaning stations. One of my favorite dives was Alimatha Circus on Vaavu Atoll. As soon as we got down a few meters we saw several large nurse sharks, curious to check us out. The biggest ones were 3 meters long, and they got really close, even bumped into some of us. They have really small mouths though, and are not scary at all. We also had two dives at Moofushi in South Ari, enjoying the magnificent manta rays at their cleaning station. Absolutely amazing!

We spent a bit of time searching for whale sharks, hoping to snorkel and dive with them, but the sea was a bit choppy and the visibility was not at it’s best in this area, so we would have been very lucky to spot one. A few evenings we put a big light on the back of the boat shining into the water to attract plankton and small fish. 2 nights we were lucky and got visits from several nurse sharks and manta rays. Especially the manta rays doing loops at the back of the boat was impressive.

We were a very international group on the boat with people from Germany, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, USA, Switzerland, England, Ireland, Spain, Bangladesh and China. Also the bar manager was from Sri Lanka, so I got to use the few words I learned when I was there (mainly “Thank you” and “Cheers”). We didn’t have fixed seats during the meals, so we moved around and got to talk to a lot of different people. There were also several social areas on the boat, and a big sundeck with bean bags and sunbeds on the roof. Great places to relax, talk and have a few beers in the evenings, even though we were a bit unlucky with the weather, with a lot of clouds and some rain.

Our first full day on the boat (December 26th) we had a Christmas dinner. We dressed up the best we could (sarongs, beach dresses and curly shirts), enjoyed a great meal with Turkey and other Christmas food, had free wine, and finished with Christmas cakes, Santa strawberries and other nice desserts. Our last full day on the boat was New Year’s Eve. We anchored a bit away from Male city, but could still see the firework from the city and the surrounding resort islands. We played music, drank prosecco and had a great time on the upper deck.

We also visited a local island, Guraidhoo, with a population of about 2700. Most of them work in the tourist industry, health sector or boat building. The closest resort island was just a short swim away, and the contrasts were significant. We also had a couple of hours in Male city, one of the most densely populated cities in the world (over 130000 in 5,8 square kilometers). The highlight was probably the Italian ice cream we had. Other than that is was noisy, hot and chaotic. On January first we all packed our bags and got ready to leave. Most of the people on the boat were only on a 1-2 weeks trip, and were flying back home, so I got a lot of sunscreen and things they did not need. I also gave away my Sri Lankan SIM card to a couple going there. We shared e-mail addresses, said goodbye to the great crew and went to the airport in the diving dhoni.

After a few hours waiting, I took a 5 hour flight to Singapore, where I planned to spend the night in one of the transit hotels located inside the airport. I had some food and a couple of European beers before I went to get a room. Fully booked! All of them! I checked the nap areas in the lounge, but they were full too. After checking the airport map, I found a quiet snooze lounge at the end of one of the piers, and lay down to try to get some sleep. After a few minutes a nice airport employee covered me in a blanket and gave me water and cookies for free. Wow! With a lot less sleep than planned, I continued my travel to the Philippines early next morning and arrived in Cebu after another 5,5 hours. I did not get any forms to fill out on the plane, so I was almost the last one through the airport. Also my suitcase was missing a wheel when I picked it up, so I had to fill out a damage report. After getting some money from the ATM and buying a local SIM card, I sat down outside waiting for Fredrik to arrive.

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We had a boring 4 hours car ride from Habarana to Negombo (close to the airport), with no interesting sights to stop at on the way. We were staying at Beach Lodge, a rustic and quirky small hotel at the beach. The location was good, but the service was very slow, they often closed the doors early and they messed up our booking (because we cancelled the first night), so it took us a lot of time to sort it out and avoid being overcharged. It was nice to be back at the beach though, and we spent quite some time playing in the big waves, relaxing on the sunbeds, watching the sunset and people going out in the traditional wooden catamarans.


It was also nice to be back in a city, where we could get our laundry done, buy a few more gifts, and have plenty of restaurants to chose from. One of our waiters in Habarana Village had recommended the Waves restaurant, and we went there on our first night. We talked a lot to the owner, who had been working as a chef all over the world, and we ordered a big seafood platter, with a lot of delicious food. The waiter who recommended the place also came to visit us in our hotel on our last day there, since he was in town visiting family.


We had a short trip to Negombo City, but it was warm, chaotic and noisy, so we didn’t spend much time there. Instead we enjoyed the quiet, small beach restaurants in our neighborhood. On Christmas Eve we went to the highest rated restaurant in the area, Lords, where they had live Christmas music, the waiters were wearing Christmas hats and there were a lot of happy people celebrating. We spent most of the evening together with a Canadian with a lot of great travel stories to tell. At the end of the evening we all wrote wishes on lanterns and sent them up from the back yard. We also had some Norwegian craft beer and aquavit that we had carried around for 4 weeks, and called home to our families in Norway.



December 25th was kind of a sad day, since Linda was going back to Norway and I would continue to the Maldives. We finished the craft beer, gave away our left-over beer to a happy tourist (no alcohol sales on Christmas day), packed our bags, shared photos and talked about everything we had seen and done the past few weeks. We had such an amazing trip, and it will be very strange to continue alone.

Cultural triangle

We had planned a few stops on the way from Kandy to Habarana, but it started raining on the way, so we skipped most of them. The Hindu temple “Sri Muthumariamman Thevasthanam” in Matale was an interesting stop though. Beautiful statues and decorations with incredibly many details. Sadly it was closed, so we were not able to see the inside of the temple.


We spent quite a bit of time in Colombo deciding where to stay in the Cultural Triangle. We ended up in Habarana Village by Cinnamon, which was pretty much in the middle of all the things we wanted to see in the area, and we got a very good discount. We had our own little house, with plenty of space, and a nice porch outside. It was located close to a lake, had some monkeys, squirrels and iguanas on the grounds, large gardens, a treehut and a beautiful multilevel pool. We also had access to the spa, travel desk and other facilities at the neighbor hotel, Cinnamon Lodge, but that was quite expensive. We still had a wonderful “couples massage” there, and booked the elephant safari through them, mainly because we didn’t have time to organize anything else.


We were really lucky with our safari guide, Kalum. It was just the two of us in the back of his jeep, and there was so much to see, so we were standing most of the trip. He spotted even the tiniest of animals that all other cars drove right past. We saw alligators, lizards, all kinds of birds and eagles, peacocks, monkeys and two large groups of wild elephants. We spent a lot of time watching them eat, flirt, play and protect the small kids. Awesome! We were served fresh pineapple half way through the safari, and Kalum had so many stories to tell and information to share. We were happy to book with him for 2 more sightseeing days.




The day we were going to Dambulla and Sigiriya it was raining, but we decided to go anyway. In Dambulla that was actually a good thing, because there were not a lot of people there at all. Our guide, Kalum, knew a shortcut, so we only had to walk the upper part of the steep trail to the top. 5 of the 80 caves dating back to the 1st century BC were open to the visitors, and they contained a lot of statues, murals and paintings related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There’s also 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses. We also had a short stop at Dambulla Golden Temple downhill from the cave temple. We ended up skipping Sigiriya rock, since it was barley visible through the clouds.



Our last sightseeing day in this area we went to the royal ancient city of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lankas capital in the 11th century. It was a very warm and sunny day, so it was hard to walk around a lot, but we got to see the most important sights. The area contains hundreds of ancient structures, tombs and temples, statues and stupas and a museum displaying a lot of the relics found in the area. One of the highlights were Potgul Vehera or the Library Monastery, a circular shrine where the sacred books were deposited, and the ruins surrounding it. The rock temple, Gal Viharaya, was also impressive with it’s 3 enormous buddha statues carved out of a single granite boulder.



Our resort was a bit outside the city, so we spent quite a bit of time there. They had big buffets for lunch and dinner, but we mainly ordered from the ala carte menu (except one evening). After a couple of days all the people who worked there knew us pretty well, and we were offered free desserts from the buffet (and later soup and salads as well). We’re not really dessert people, but this was too impressive to skip. The first night they had a mediocre keyboard player, but luckily a couple of pretty good troubadours with guitars took over the next evenings, so we had a great time there. We got a lot of recommendations for the rest of our trip, had some great drinks and local arrack, and were given a very cute goodbye present (cookies and chocolate in an elephant shaped box) from the waiters.